Making public transport better for all

TRANSIT took note of the following articles about accessibility issues in the public transport system of the Klang Valley.

The first article is a ‘poser’ from Wong of Petaling Jaya. We think this might be Sam Wong from the Association of Standards Users of Malaysia.

RapidBET-ter for the disabled (Malay Mail)

15 March 2010
NADIRAH H. RODZI

PUBLIC TRANSPORT FOR ALL: More disabled people will use the bus services if more user-friendly facilities are provided. Image courtesy of The Malay Mail

WONG of Petaling Jaya says bus services should be more disabled-friendly and wonders if the Rapid Bus Expressway Transit (RapidBET) system operators in Kuala Lumpur and surrounding areas could do more.

“We cannot deny that some bus companies have provided such facilities for the disabled but they are still few and far in-between,” he says.

“For example, at the Taman Paramount station in PJ, we hardly find disabled people there. One reason could be due to lack of parking spaces for them. Also, its entrance has no ramps for the wheelchair-bound.”

WONG feels corporate awareness of the needs of the disabled in this country is still relatively low.

“If we look at our bus stops and transport hubs, we will find not much connectivity in terms of public transport to these stations and from station to station.”

“Public transport operators have promised more facilities for this group, but in many cases, they have not delivered.”

WONG says there is also a lack of user-friendly facilities for the blind.

“There should be more guiding blocks and tactile mapping for LRT routes to benefit the blind,” he says.

“The disabled do receive sympathy from fellow Malaysians, but it’s not only about charitable donations but also user-friendly facilities in public transport and barrier-free environment in as many public places as possible.”

A spokesperson for Rangkaian Pengangkutan Integrasi Deras Sdn Bhd (RapidKL) says: “RapidBET is a system where buses utilise less congested highways to link heavily-populated areas and the city centre. With shorter travel time, RapidBET attracts more commuters to use its service.

“RapidKL, which is a subsidiary of Syarikat Prasarana Negara Berhad (Prasarana), has 100 buses with barrier-free facilities in service since 2007. is currently in tendering process to expand its barrier-free bus fleet. As a continuous effort, joint-audits will be organised involving relevant parties, including organisations related to the disabled to finalise the technical specifications for the prototype bus to comply with design standards.”

As for LRT stations, the spokesperson says those at the Kelana Jaya Line are equipped with disabled-friendly facilities such as:

  1. lifts prioritised for the disabled, elderly, pregnant women and those less mobile;
  2. tactile flooring for the blind;
  3. wide manual gates at paid area;
  4. user-friendly toilets;
  5. special compartments for the wheelchair-bound in trains;
  6. entry ramp to stations; and
  7. special parking bays.

“The Taman Paramount station, which was specifically mentioned by WONG, is equipped with disabled-friendly facilities similar as other Kelana Jaya Line LRT stations, including ramps and parking bays.”

“Meanwhile, all Ampang stations will be upgraded in stages with barrier-free features beginning the fourth quarter of 2010. Prasarana also plans to provide two parking bays at each station with facilities for the disabled. This will be implemented within the second quarter of 2010.”

In the company’s efforts to improve service efficiency, RapidKL welcomes any public feedback via its Helpline at 03 78852585 from 7am to 8.30pm on weekdays and 8.30am to 5.30pm on Saturdays and Sundays. The public can also email their feedback to suggest@rapidkl.

TRANSIT Says:

The letter is an interesting one because it expresses a concern over a lack of holistic improvements to the public transport systems and the landscape surrounding the stations. The basic message is that, while the public transport system may have lifts and be ‘accessible’ in theory, in practice this is not the case.

The next article shows exactly how this can affect people and sends a bad impression about accessibility in Malaysia.

Wheelchair users want more access to transport (Star – Metro)

By JADE CHAN
Tuesday March 16, 2010

SEVERAL wheelchair users were left disappointed and upset after a trip to a premier tourist spot in Kuala Lumpur revealed some accessibility issues for the disabled.

“After attending a conference last Wednesday, a few of us were keen to take two of our foreign speakers who are wheelchair users around to show off the ‘accessible’ sections of our capital city.

“We had planned to get to Suria KLCC, board the LRT and head to KL Sentral,” said Association of Women with Disabilities Malaysia president K. Bathmavathi, 55.

“After being dropped off at Suria KLCC in a wheelchair-accessible van, we had to ask around for directions as there were no signs directing us to the LRT station.

“Upon entering the passageway linking Suria KLCC and the KLCC LRT station, we were stopped abruptly when we were greeted by a flight of steps flanked by escalators leading down to the next level. Attached to the stairs was a folded stair lift,” she said.

Bathmavathi and her friends sought the assistance of two security guards nearby.

“One of them said he had to get the key from the office to unlock the stair lift,” she said.

“He went off to get it, but there was no sign of him after 15 minutes had passed by.”

Bathmavathi’s attempt to contact KLCC’s communications manager was in vain as the person was away at a meeting.

“I conveyed our predicament to the staff who answered the phone. She said she would send another guard over to look into the problem,” she said.

“The earlier guard came back shortly with the key and fiddled with some gadgets attached to the bannister, but to no avail. It was obvious that none of them knew how to operate the stair lift!”

Describing it as a harrowing experience, Bathmavathi said: “In all, the five of us wheelchair users were robbed of some 30 minutes and subjected to undue frustration and anger.

“Most importantly, our right to freedom of movement was curtailed at that point when we could not proceed with our travels. We abandoned our travel plan and left,” she said.

Ironically, the event they attended was the National Conference on Accessibility and Universal Design: Implications for Public Transport and the Built Environment.

It was a similar experience for Beautiful Gate Foundation for the Disabled executive director Pastor Sia Siew Chin when she attempted the same thing the following day.

Sia, 44, who was travelling with several foundation members was left waiting for about 15 minutes while some security guards tried to assist them in unlocking the stair lift.

“In the end, we were informed that the stair lift was out of order, so we had to call for the van.

“On Wednesday, the guards even suggested that we use the escalator to go down, which would have been dangerous.

“An elevator would’ve been a better and safer option for us, but there was none there,” she said.

“A stair lift is not a good solution as somebody needs to be on standby to operate it. Plus, it deprives the disabled of the freedom to move and makes them dependent on help,” Sia said.

Kenneth Thian, 42, said it was important for the management to engage a technician’s services to ensure that the stair lift was functional at all times.

“All the guards should be properly trained to operate the stair lift and help wheelchair users,” he said.

“Whoever is stationed nearest the stair lift should have the keys, instead of the present system where only the supervisor has the key,” he said.

To better promote Malaysia as a tourist destination, Sia said there should be universally accepted disabled-friendly equipment at major tourist attractions, public places, and public transport.

“It was embarrassing for us because we had some foreign guests with us,” she said.

Sia said providing disabled-friendly facilities should not be viewed as an extra cost, but as an investment to generate income for tourism.

Both Bathmavathi and Sia said the matter had been highlighted at a council comprising some 10 disability organisations that would look into fighting for the group’s rights.

When contacted, KLCC Property Holdings Bhd declined to comment.

TRANSIT Says:

This story is quite disappointing and it should serve as a lesson that building ‘accessibility’ into a community is far more challenging than if our communities are built with ‘universal design’ principles in the first place.

KLCC Property Holdings Berhad should take responsibility and excavate some of the space next to the escalator to provide proper wheelchair lift between the KLCC concourse level and the LRT concourse level. Ideally, this lift could also be extended to street level to provide access from Jalan Ampang to the LRT station.

Prasarana and KLCC Property Holding could fund the construction of the lift together.

Another alternative, probably not as effective or appealing, would be to include a ramp along the wall that would follow the shape of the underground walkway, allowing wheelchairs and strollers to be moved.

The ramp would have to be long and follow the shape of the walkway in order to be shallow enough for safe use.

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